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Wine of the Week for week ending 28 January 2001
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Ascension Pinotage 2000
Matakana, New Zealand

Label of Ascension Pinotage 2000 I am one of the greatest fans of wines made from the Pinotage grape, so when I heard there was a new producer coming on line and one of the wines was a Pinotage, I made sure I one of the first in the line to get a taste.

And I'm sure glad I did, for the brand new Pinotage made from the first grapes to be harvested from the Ascension Vineyard in Matakana north of Auckland, New Zealand, is a little beauty. It's very impressive indeed.

The Ascension Pinotage 2000 is a vibrant pinky red colour of medium intensity with smoky, game meat aromas and cherry and plum flavours, cinnamon, cloves and peppery spice, savoury notes, a touch of sultry earthiness and just a hint of oak. It's a warm soft wine with really juicy fruit and virtually no tannins but a little touch of acidity that adds some lively zest. It also has that intriguing 'x' factor in the flavour and texture that gives a sense of 'warm fuzzies'.

This is a new clone of Pinotage and seems perfectly suited to the Matakana climate. Ascension owner and winemaker, Darryl Soljan, said that just before harvest there was a wall of fruit along the rows. The oval grapes looked like "little rugby balls" hanging on the vine and were picked in perfect condition. It was fermented in three different lots each with different yeast, then pressed off together as one blend to be aged for just 4 months in a mixture of new and old French and American oak.

Ascension has a vineyard café and this wine is perfect to accompany luncheon or for summer sipping in the late afternoon. I've stashed a couple of bottles away to try this winter to try with my favourite casserole or perhaps the recommended 'food match from heaven' - a tenderloin of Lamb on a berry barbecue sauce with roasted garlic potato mash.

Darryl Soljan says that Pinotage as a variety is almost impossible to sell to the retailers but it is the sort of wine, that they could "sell truckloads of" once they get people to try it. So the Ascension Pinotage will be sold mostly from the winery and in the winery café. It costs just $15.95.

If you want to fine out more about this wine or where to buy near you, e-mail the winery

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